Networking 103: The Follow-Up

A group of diverse attorneys

What to do with all of those business cards? You picked your crowd, attended some events, and collected business cards. Now what?

The earlier posts in this series discussed where to network and how to network at an event; this post will discuss how to make that networking effective through follow-up. Here’s the difference between networking and effective networking: networking is merely meeting people and collecting business cards, while effective networking is building long-term professional relationships. Here are four tips to help you build your network beyond the networking event.

Write down the details. Maybe you’ve already heard this tip, but let me be clear about its importance. If you use the back of a business card to write down where you got the card and what information was discussed when you received it, then you have an instant introduction when you follow up with a potential business contact. If you don’t write it down, that business card will have the life-span of about a week, when you will look at the card and struggle to recall that particular card’s owner. Here’s how to jog your memory and to help them remember your conversation:

  • Where did you meet this person? Keep it simple, perhaps just the topic/host and date: “WSBA HLS CLE June 2014” or “YLS networking HH Oct 2014.”
  • What did you discuss? Did you talk about the CLE you both just attended, the law school you both attended, a mutual acquaintance, or your shared enjoyment of the Sounders? A quick “opera in German” or “Northwest Hsp integration” will help you remember later. If you offered to share the article that you’d researched and read, or to send details of an upcoming seminar, be sure to note that, too.

Keep it simple. Pick three people to intentionally follow up with and to build those professional relationships. Sorting through your business card notes will help in your selection. When considering your follow-up note, remember to keep it simple. Sure, handwritten notes on personal stationery are always lovely to receive, but you’re more likely to send a quick email: include that article you wrote, forward an email about the next YLS networking happy hour, or share a link for an upcoming conference related to the topic that you two discussed. Let’s face it, we attorneys love to complicate things, but if you overthink it, then you’ll lose your momentum. Keep it simple.

Use it or lose it. This is one of the key distinctions between mere networking and effective networking: repeat. No need to be pesky, but every few months, find a reason to reach out to that contact: another seminar, an upcoming opera, an interesting article. Consider setting up a quarterly reminder on your calendar for each contact. Pick a different month for each of those three you selected and you’ll create a communication rotation (a great habit). Do you remember anything about that kid you met in 1L Orientation and who you saw at a few reunions? No. Do you remember anything about that kid you met in 1L Orientation and who you see every year at the 4th of July alumni picnic? Yes. You get the picture.

Bring value. Take the time to find something that your contact will find valuable. Do some research on them: read their bio on the firm website and find out what interests they have beyond your original conversation. Then send them a professional article about the intersection of their practice and another area of law. Update them on your professional successes. Connect them to a CLE planning committee seeking a speaker in their practice area. If you don’t find anything worth sharing one quarter, that’s fine; the reminder is to help build a habit, but at the end of the day this should still be about quality over quantity. Most importantly, give instead of take: give them value without asking for something in return.

You don’t need to spend half of your day on effective networking; you can set aside what amounts to a few hours a year. Remember, the purpose of all this networking is to build your network for the future. Want to dig deeper into relationship-building? I recommend The Opportunity Maker by Aril L. Kaplan and Give and Take by Adam Grant.